'House passes real bill on false alarm
- By William Matthews
- May 19, 2000
In a show of uncharacteristic bipatrisanship and courage, House members
this week voted unanimously against a bill that was never introduced by
a congressman who doesn't exist. Now Internet users can breathe a sigh of
relief — if they can stop laughing.
On a unanimous voice vote Tuesday, the House repudiated the fictitious
H.B. 602P, purportedly championed by a Rep. Tony Schnell, a killjoy congressman
who wanted to levy a fee for each minute Internet users were connected online.
Real House members delivered redemption — and killed rumors of such
a bill — in the form of H.R. 1291, which prohibits the Federal Communications
Commission from imposing any per-minute user fees for hooking up to the
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), one of 142 co-sponsors of H.R. 1291, estimated
that per-minute Internet charges could have cost average consumers $400
a year. Worse, Goodlatte fretted, per-minute Internet fees would disproportionately
impact lower-income families who use the Internet to search for jobs, not
to mention students who use the Internet for help with their homework.
Goodlatte, who admitted his office was beseiged with phone calls and
letters from constituents in his rural Virginia district who thought H.B.
602P was for real, vowed to continue fighting to ensure all Americans regardless
of geographic location or financial status "have access to the wonders that
await them online."
Not to be outdone by the humbugs on the Hill, the Executive Office of
the President endorsed H.R. 1291 as soon as it passed, pausing only to note
that "the bill enacts current policy."
"As the bill continues through the legislative process," the White House
added, it should be "amended to further clarify that Internet service providers
are exempt from all time-based access charges."